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Copyright: Fair Use

A research guide devoted to explaining copyright law with regards to higher education.

What is the FAIR use act?

Fair use frequently functions as an exemption to the copyright law for educational and socially important purposes such as teaching, research, criticism, commentary, parody, and news reporting; however, you cannot assume that all educational use is fair use. Anytime that you wish to use copyrighted material without permission you should consider all of the four fair use factors.   The four factors to be considered together are purpose, nature, amount and effect.

See 17 U.S.C. § 107 (2016) 

Fair Use Video

Fair Use Checklist

Fair Use Infographic

Quick Guide to Fair Use

Fair Use Exemption

As mentioned in the introduction, Courts tend to collapse the four fair use factors into two questions:

  1. Is the use you want to make of another's work transformative -- that is, does it add value to and repurpose the work for a new audience?
  2. Is the amount of material you want to use appropriate to achieve your transformative purpose?

If a use is not transformative, or if the amount you want to use goes beyond what you need to make your point, look at market availability for a license. We can start with a few quick suggestions regarding the types of uses that we most commonly make of others' work on campus. Then, we can look more closely at the fair use statute's four factors to see how they can help you for more difficult cases.

  • Coursepacks, reserves, learning management systems and other platforms for distributing course content
  • Image, audio and audiovisual archives
  • Creative uses
  • Research copies

Coursepacks, reserves, learning management systems, iTunes U and other platforms for distributing content

For transformative uses, use no more than you need to achieve your transformative purpose.

If you need to use materials in essentially the same way or for the same audience as the author intended, or you use more than necessary to achieve a transformative purpose, limit materials distributed in coursepacks, through reserves, learning management systems and iTunes U by:‚Äč

  • Using small amounts of the total
  • Use copies of materials that a faculty member or the library already possesses legally (i.e., by purchase, license, fair use, interlibrary loan, etc.)
  • Limit access to the appropriate groups, such as students enrolled in a class and administrative staff, as needed
  • Terminate access at the end of the class term when appropriate

Always include

  • Any copyright notice on the original
  • Appropriate citations and attributions to the source
  • A Section 108(f)(1) notice, because these materials are distributed most often through digital media

Digitizing and providing access to images and audiovisual resources for educational purposes

If the use of the resources is transformative and the amount used is appropriate for the transformative purpose, digitize them and make them available as needed, in accordance with the limitations below. In some cases where a use is transformative and the institution's materials are unique, fair use will support digitizing them and providing public access. But in other cases, digitized materials should be made available in accordance with the limitations below.

If the use is not transformative, for example, in the case of analog slide sets produced and marketed for an educational audience, assess the scope and relevance of licensed digital resources available to meet educator's needs.

  • If your needs and the content of licensed digital resources significantly overlap: Acquire licenses to use the commercially available digital collections and digitize institutional holdings in accordance with the limitations below.
  • If there is little overlap in your needs and readily available digital collections, for example, if your materials are no longer available or are rare: Digitize and use institutional works in accordance with the limitations below.

Limit access to all images, audio and audiovisual resources, except low resolution small images or short clips, to appropriate audiences such as students enrolled in a class and administrative staff as needed. Terminate access at the end of the class term when appropriate.

Faculty members also may use these works at peer conferences.

Students may download, print when needed, and transmit digitized works for personal study and for use in the preparation of academic course assignments and other requirements for degrees, may publicly display images and perform audio and audiovisual works in works prepared for course assignments etc., and may keep works containing them in their portfolios.

Digitizing and using other's works creatively

Students, faculty and staff who wish to use others' works in creative, transformative ways, may incorporate others' works into their own original creations and display and perform the resulting work in connection with or creation of:

  • Class assignments
  • Curriculum materials
  • Remote instruction
  • Examinations
  • Student portfolios
  • Professional symposia

While creative uses tend to be transformative, we still must be careful to use no more than needed to achieve the transformative purpose.

Limit copies and distribution.

Quantities of Media Recommended for Borrowing under the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia: Mediums and Amounts

Credit for Content

Fair Use 101 information is under a creative commons license  by The Ohio State University.

Both infographics on Fair Use are from the Association of Research Libraries.

Fair Use Checklist by Kenneth D. Crews and Dwayne K. Buttler, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license
Read more at How do you something is in the Public Domain? by Visme

Figure 2.1 is from Butler, R. (2014). Copyright for academic librarians and professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Please give attribution to the University of Minnesota Crookston